Destinations: Louisville


By B.C. Rausch

Even though we live in paradise, the occasional out-of-town excursion is a treat. From Hilton Head and Savannah, we’re fortunate to have nonstop flight options that afford exploration of many popular North American destinations rich in abundant sights, sounds and flavors. LOCAL Life brings these nonstop cities to you through the eyes and recommendations of local foodies, shopaholics, sports fans and cultural aficionados who will ensure that your next out-of-town adventure is just that — nonstop.

Louisville combines heritage with innovation, authenticity with originality and quirkiness with friendliness in a way that’s unique to this region. Here people say that they’re a “different type” of Southern.

But before doing anything else, learn how to pronounce the city’s name like a local. Looeyville: No. Louis-Ville: Definitely not. Loo-a-Vul: Yes. Loo-a-Ville: Yes. Got it? Good. Now let’s talk bourbon and its booming renaissance in the heart of Louisville.

Some say bourbon is the spirit that defines the culture arts, and creative energy of Kentucky’s largest city.

Experience it for yourself, starting with a profusion of local bars and restaurants with a wide knowledge of whiskeys, bourbon-infused food menus, and some of the city’s largest collections — 50 to 150 types — of Kentucky’s signature spirit.

Also consider planning for the world’s largest bourbon and music festival, called Bourbon & Beyond, on September 15-18. After a two-year hiatus, this star-studded event showcases more than 50 of the best in classic rock, alt rock and bluegrass bands on three stages, along with hands-on bourbon workshops, tastings and culinary programming from celebrity chefs.

For a different sort of spirit, head to Waverly Hills Sanatorium, considered by some to be the most haunted place on earth. Fascinating and macabre, this former hospital lost so many patients to tuberculosis that it added a chute (called the “death tunnel”) for moving bodies into a hill below so the living wouldn’t know of the terrifying number of deaths.

Far more lively and fun are Louisville’s must-see attractions, both citadels of sport. Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, has held thoroughbred racing since 1875. Located on 147 acres, it features both a one-mile dirt oval and a seven-furlong turf course. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships more often than any racetrack in the country.

And don’t skip the Kentucky Derby Museum with two stories of exhibits including artifacts, photographs, trophies, and immersive displays. From the museum there’s a guided walking tour of the racetrack itself.

Few places give visitors a glimpse into the history of baseball like the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. You can’t miss it — just look for the world’s largest baseball bat out front, nearly 120 feet tall.

Louisville features many architectural gems, particularly in a section called Old South, a 45-square-block residential community filled with lavish homes built with the industrial fortunes of the 19th century.

In the 1950s and ’60s many homeowners moved out to the city’s more modern, developing suburbs, leaving many of these magnificent houses to deteriorate. But more than a few remain and have been lovingly preserved.

The iconic, two-story Louisville Palace Theater located downtown has been in operation since 1928. Its Spanish Baroque motif is complete with arcades and balconies, while its ceiling features 139 sculptures of historical figures and is heavily ornamented. It was rejuvenated in 1994 and is once again a premiere venue for theater and live performances, and you’ll find a wide choice of restaurants nearby.

People come from around the globe to pay their respects and celebrate the legacy of Louisville’s most famous native son, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, but better known as “The Greatest.” Having lived most of his young life in Louisville, the city is full of landmarks, including his final resting place, that are the backdrops to the Ali legend.

Explore outdoor Louisville with a visit to Cherokee Park and its picturesque 2.4-mile loop, with separate lanes for vehicular traffic. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1890s, and is rich with green pastures set amid the green meadows and woodlands.

The local visitors’ bureau (gotolouisville) has a great website that includes a cool, custom itinerary planning feature called “Shake It Up.” Because that’s what you’re sure to do when you get there. LL

Run for the Roses

What: 2022 Kentucky Derby

When: Saturday, May 7

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville

Best bets: Smile Happy (14-1), Charge It (20-1), Cyberknife (20-1) Morello (10-1) , Epicenter (6-1)

Nonstop flight

Savannah Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport Standiford Field (SDF)

Duration: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Airline: Allegiant

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